Commentary: The Book of Hosea



To say that the Book of Hosea makes for difficult reading is an understatement. The language is stark for the prophet states in the opening chapters that the Lord has commanded him to marry a whore “for the land [of Israel] commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” The children of this union have names that signify God’s judgment on the Northern Kingdom, such as “I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel” and “You are not my people and I am not your God.” Amazing that a name could carry so much meaning. 


Scholars on Hosea have divided themselves into three camps. One group believes that the first three chapters are a metaphor for the abandonment of God by Israel; the second group believes that the prophet responded in light of his own unhappy marriage; and the third is that the marriage followed the prophecies in order to dramatize the unfaithfulness of Israel to the Lord. 


Following these first three chapters, Hosea delivers his prophetic message: the corruption of religion by the leaders, the worship of money rather than God, and the oppression of the poor. His language reflects that of Isaiah and Amos: “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” 


During the thirty years of his voice in Israel, the country was falling apart. Hosea uses sexual imagery regarding faithlessness, comparing Israel to an adulteress, a prostitute, and people who care only about themselves. 


Scholars believe that the book’s prophecies are broken into two parts, the first before the Assyrian conquest and the second after it. At the end of the two parts, there are poems of restoration. And in the prophet’s eyes that can only come with the restoration of a unified monarchy.